Religious Symbolism Guidelines


In order to accurately and appropriately express our identity as a Catholic sponsored institution of higher education, the presence of religious and spiritual symbolism is necessary and desirable. Through symbols we call to mind for all persons—students, faculty, staff, and visitors—those intangible and invisible beliefs and core values that guide all that we are and all that we do.

Certain symbols representative of the Catholic faith are present to express the faith of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, founders and sponsors of the College, and are not intended to offend or exclude others. This faith tradition, espousing the dignity of persons, service, and social justice, is lived out by all who work here. Spiritual symbols help Saint Mary's College remain true to the mission of the College.

Religious and spiritual symbolism throughout the buildings and grounds of Saint Mary's College expresses the human spirit, and recalls the grace, love, inspiration, and healing strength that is revealed to us by God through our work and the beauty of Creation.


The Religious Symbolism Committee of the Division for Mission is an advisory group, brought together at the request of the President, and consists of representatives of the College and Congregation, including faculty, sisters, staff, and students. The Committee formulated these "Religious Symbolism Guidelines and Recommendations" to provide guidance to all departments in planning, selecting, and maintaining appropriate religious symbolism and spiritual art throughout all of Saint Mary's College.


These recommendations and guidelines describe the places where religious and spiritual symbolism should be present and serve as guidelines for selection of religious symbolism and spiritual art.

The purpose of these recommendations is to accurately and appropriately express the Catholic identity of Saint Mary's College and the spiritual dimension of education and community life, through the presence of religious and spiritual symbolism throughout the facilities and grounds of Saint Mary's College.

  1. The Religious Symbolism Committee will oversee a review of religious symbolism of the College on an ongoing basis.

  2. Every departmental office should have a framed Mission Statement hung in a visible and dominant place.

    The department supervisor can obtain a printed copy from the Office of the Division for Mission.

  3. Every classroom should have a crucifix or cross.

    The words "Spes Unica" on the College seal refer to the cross as our "one hope," and it is fitting to have the cross as a prominent symbol. There is a rich variety of crosses and crucifixes. The Religious Symbolism Committee is responsible for identifying a selection of crosses and crucifixes and will consult with the appropriate departments and building committees regarding installation in their respective classrooms.

  4. Every gathering room and public space should have some article(s) of a spiritual nature.

    The Religious Symbolism Committee is responsible for identifying public gathering areas and assessing the need for religious symbolism in these areas. The committee will consult with the appropriate department or service regarding installation of religious symbolism.

  5. Employees with personal offices are encouraged to express their individual identity and spirituality through meaningful articles of a religious or spiritual nature.

    Employees who share common work space should together select and display religious symbolism or spiritual art of which the meaning is known, shared, and appreciated by all. Whenever possible, it is important that religious and spiritual art follow a theme that is consistent with the department or service which is to occupy the new space. The Religious Symbolism Committee is available to serve as a consultant regarding resources for religious and spiritual symbols.

  6. A recognition of the spiritual dimensions of the buildings and grounds should be considered as renovations, relocations, and additions occur throughout the campus.

    A constant effort should be made to ensure that religious symbolism does not become an afterthought. To ensure a timely place in planning, the appropriate administrator should contact the Vice President for Mission and/or Chair of the Religious Symbolism Committee to discuss ideas for integrating religious symbolism in the new space.

    A representative of the Religious Symbolism Committee should serve as a consultant, liaison to, or member of each project's Planning and Design Committee, as well as of the Historic Preservation Committee and other appropriate committees.

  7. It is important to remember that the French Cross is a religious symbol, as any traditional cross is, and needs to be used with the same respect. When determining appropriate treatment of the French Cross, the following overriding principles should be considered:

    1.    The official College logo should be used whenever possible.

    2.    Best practices among aspirant and peer institutions indicate that the elements of the institutional logo are never dissected; nor are the logo amended for specific creative purposes. However, Saint Mary’s use of the stand-alone French Cross is an embedded tradition that goes back several decades. Moreover, the College currently possesses no widely accepted sub-logos.

    3.    That lack of viable sub-logos coupled with the desire to identify products, clothing, trinkets, etc. with Saint Mary’s must be balanced with the fact that the French Cross is a religious symbol and, like any traditional cross, needs to be used with the same respect. 

    Until the completion of further design and visual identity work at the College, the use of the stand-alone French Cross as a symbol is conditionally allowed at this time, keeping in mind the following guidelines:

    •    Because of NCAA uniform regulations and constraints, the stand-alone French Cross may be used on athletic uniforms; however, when possible this symbol should be supported by use of the official College logo on other apparel worn by the team.
    •    The Religious Symbolism Committee should be consulted regarding use of the French Cross in permanent building structure.
    •    Questions about the appropriate use of the French Cross should be addressed to the director, club advisor or department chair in question. They are responsible for being aware of the guide lines.
    •    Questions about the appropriate use of the French Cross from directors, club advisors, department chairs or other members of the community should be addressed to the Religious Symbolism Committee.